Before the Windrush

John Belchem

Published by Liverpool University Press

Published in print June 2014 | ISBN: 9781846319679
Published online September 2014 | e-ISBN: 9781781387153
Before the Windrush

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Based on extensive primary sources, this study brings historical perspective and context to debate about race and immigration in Britain. The focus is on Liverpool and its pioneer but problematic race relations as the once proud Edwardian cosmopolitan ‘second city of empire’ transmogrified into the shock city of post-colonial, post-industrial Britain. As the gateway of empire, the great seaport of Liverpool attracted significant numbers of ‘coloured’ colonials long before the arrival of West Indian migrants on the ‘Empire Windrush’ in 1948. Their legal status as British subjects in the ‘motherland’ notwithstanding, Liverpool's ‘coloured’ community of transients, sojourners and settlers were the first to discover that ‘There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack’. Their struggle against prejudice and discrimination serves as foundation narrative in the making of the black British, an identity obscured and misunderstood by conventional concentration on recent immigration. The warnings emanating from Liverpool's troubled pattern of race relations went unheeded in Britain's uneasy transition to a multi-cultural society, as the empire ‘came home’ following decolonisation. Instead of serving as object lesson, Liverpool was by this time marginalised and denigrated, condemned as an internal ‘other’ at odds with positive developments elsewhere in enterprise Britain. For agencies seeking to regenerate and rehabilitate the city, measures to address racial discrimination and disadvantage were seldom a priority (or even included) in a succession of ill-fated projects to tackle multiple deprivation. In the aftermath of the Toxteth riots of 1981, once proud ‘cosmopolitan’ Liverpool stood condemned for its ‘uniquely horrific’ racism.

Keywords: race relations; racism; black British; empire; decolonisation; immigration; multi-cultural; cosmopolitan; Liverpool; Empire Windrush

Book.  0 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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